Seeing the yellow booted, blue jean wearing Topi among other things.... Offbeat Riding Safaris

Hundreds of wildebeest cleared the airstrip to allow the chartered plane to come to a land. Twelve guests including couples, families and lone travelers unloaded into the 4x4’s as we made our way to the first camp. Eyes were on stalks as a Megan and Simon pointed out the differences of Thompson and Grant gazelles that filled our eyes, as well as the fashionista’s of the antelope world - the yellow booted, blue jean wearing topi. Even a bunch of giraffe came to welcome us to the Mara, fluttering their gorgeous lashes. We really could only be on the plains of Africa.

Tummies filled and heads rested, it was time to meet our steeds. Mounted we followed Simon out; now if seeing giraffe was cool from the trucks seeing them from the horses was something else..

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I was having to pinch myself that we weren’t walking through the set of some Hollywood film. Suddenly the mood changed,  hushing was making its way through from the front. A few moments of creeping and all became clear, a family of elephants stood munching their way through the trees.

As we all were smiling like Cheshire cats the horses were collectively rolling their eyes at us on board as if to say “what do you mean you’ve not seen an elephant before”. After tea we jumped back in the truck, one mission: big cats. A few dik-diks later, Netti (our local Masai spotter) caught the eyes of a hungry lioness.

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The poor girl was heavily pregnant and despite skinning a gazelles leg, wasn’t getting any closer to catching supper. Thankfully her sister was on hand and managed to make the kill. We followed as the girls took it to the young cubs in their care, watching them practicing their pouncing was heart melting. Mission complete hey.

This was only day one. Surely guides Simon and Megan had pulled their trump cards?

Ha, little did we all know about the strength and depth the Mara had to offer! Returning from every ride from there on in we’d get back camp jumping about like spring hares, reflecting on what we’d been fortunate to witness or giggling with Megan over her extensive animal mating knowledge.. an area we were fortunate to see a lot of over the few days! We learnt very quickly that no two days were the same and it was impossible to predict what you’d see.

Highlights of the week are hard to pick as each ride had its own special moment (or two). The feeling of my heart pounding in my chest as we prepared to cross the Mara river for the first time, saddle deep with hippos lurking on either side.

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The simple beauty of seeing the sun rise over the escarpment, followed by a day adventuring in the Mara until the sky is full with twinkling stars.

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Or giggling as a bull elephant puts on a display of his favourite mud spa, resulting in Netti leaping back as he turns, almost touching distance, from the cars.

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However there was something extraordinary about getting within 15m of a cheetah whilst on horseback. We’d been lucky enough to spot a cheetah the day before in the cars but this sighting almost passed us by. We’d set off for a canter when 100m later we screeched to a halt, Simons eagle eyes had spotted a beige looking part of a mound.

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The beautiful cat allowed us to creep even closer and gaze as she went about her morning. One of the many once in a lifetime moments of this safari.